The Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport will receive more than $1.2 million in federal funding this year, the state’s senators announced last week.
The funding for the airport comes from three separate grants, which, when taken together, “are a significant investment in the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a press release.
“The funding will help Ithaca Tompkins enhance their safety and security capabilities through the construction of a perimeter fence and the purchasing of necessary safety and maintenance equipment,” he said.
The airport will use the money to replace its aging snowplow and rapid-response aircraft rescue vehicle.
The funding will also help the airport bring its perimeter fence in line with safety codes. The current fence is eight feet tall and has three strands of barbed wire at the top, but animals have been able to burrow underneath it, airport manager Robert Nicholas said. With the funding, airport officials plan to dig deeper and place part of the fence underground.
“You can’t have a fence around the airport that has great holes at the bottom of it that animals can crawl through onto the tarmac,” Nicholas said. “When airplanes land, that’s not a good mix.”
Improving the airport’s infrastructure will enhance airport safety and will have a positive effect on the community as a whole, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in the press release.
“Improving the airport’s infrastructure and safety equipment can help provide better, safer service for travelers and businesses, and help strengthen the local economy,” the press release stated.
Because the airport is self-supporting and does not cost taxpayers any money, federal funding is the main resource for replacing “the big items,” Nicholas said.
“The cost of keeping the airport facility safe is way beyond what we can afford in terms of trying to keep the airport off the tax roll,” he said. “We get an annual grant this time of year — we just have to figure out how we’re going to spend it and what priorities we have as equipment wears out.”
The state’s announcement about its funding for the airport comes after officials learned last spring that sequester budget cuts would force the airport’s control tower to close, prompting concerns about flight delays.